Landlord Baruch Singer: ‘Slumlord’ Was Bum Rap

The lawsuit includes 74 pages listing 437 violations on record for the property. Fourteen of the violations had accrued just since the purchase, including broken windows in public areas, illegal bolt locks installed inside apartment doors, and three instances of paint that tested positive for lead. In January, Mr. Singer agreed to settle for $6,000 and promised to resolve the violations in 15 to 90 days, reserving the right to go back to court for an extension if necessary.

He told The Observer he had no choice because, had he gone to trial, he would be liable for more than $1 million for violations that he inherited—and that, because of the cumbersome way that violations are removed from the system, he might have already resolved. “H.P.D. and I settled the case because we knew we’d do the work,” he said.

Officially, H.P.D. maintains that when landlords buy buildings, they buy the buildings’ violations on record, department spokesman Neill Coleman said. But he added that the city’s lawyers use discretion if it appears that a property owner is trying to improve a property in a timely manner. In the case of 655 West 160th Street, H.P.D. gave Mr. Singer about 15 months between his purchase and taking legal action, and tried to work through other means first, Mr. Coleman said.

Mr. Singer and his bank were thinking more on the order of two years: that was the amount of time that his lender, New York Community Bank, had given him to resolve the most hazardous violations, according to the mortgage agreement.

To act faster, Mr. Singer said, is virtually impossible because of the sheer volume of work and of tenants occasionally not allowing landlords access to apartments.


Landlord Baruch Singer: ‘Slumlord’ Was Bum Rap